Brasilmagic\’s Weblog

Venting to the World

Meals and Food Differences

Another difference between the two countries-USA and Brazil-is in the way people eat their meals.  Both countries use the staple breakfast, lunch and dinner, but differ in what people eat and how much. Although you will find in most major Brazilian cities restaurants with international cuisines, people are less adventurous in what they eat. Breakfast, for example, is usually café au lait with bread and butter. Slight variations are black coffee, toast with jelly or cheese and fruit. Some may eat a pastry or the famous Brazilian cheese rolls (pão de queijo, see a recipe of this delicious appetizer here: Few people are in the habit of eating cereal for breakfast, and even fewer eat bacon or eggs. I remember on my first job in America how horrified I was to see people drinking coca-cola for breakfast.

Lunch in Brazil is heavier than dinner, and is usually composed of hot foods. A piece of meat (beef, chicken or fish), rice and beans and some salad (usually lettuce and tomato) are the most common type of lunch meal you can find in any household. For many people rice and beans are part of every meal, even if they add another starch such as potatoes. Entré salads are not common in Brazil. Salads are usually smaller and offered as a side dish.

Dinner is usually around 7pm and is closer to what Americans may eat for lunch. Some people prepare a soup with a sandwich, others eat leftovers from lunch.  If you consider the fact that it is not recommended to eat heavily in the evening, the Brazilian way of eating makes more sense. Many European countries, specially Eastern Europe, have a similar tradition. However, their main mean of the day is around 4 PM. People come home from work and prepare their one hot meal of the day. A small snack may be eaten before bed.

Contrary to what many Americans may think, Brazilian food is not very spicy. Many people somehow think Brazilian food is similar to Mexican, but in reality the only similarity is that Mexicans also use a lot of rice and beans in their meals. You will find spicier fare in Bahia, a state in Eastern Brazil, which is heavily influenced by African traditions.  Another misconception is that Brazilians eat exotic animals. In reality, beef is the most popular meat, followed by chicken, pork and fish. Lamb is not commonly eaten (fancy restaurants now offer lamb chops) and neither is veal.

The most famous Brazilian dish is still the feijoada (FAY-ZHO-AHDA): The story behind the feijoada is well known. In Colonial times, Brazilian slaves were reserved the cheapest parts of the animals. Black beans were abundant, so they would mix the pig’s feet and head with the black beans and cook it until tender. Nowadays, feijoada is made with more noble pork parts such as pork loin and sausages, but you will still find places around the country that add the pig’s feet.

Each Brazilian region (Brazil is divided between North, Northeast, Southeast, Centerwest and Southern regions) has its own famous culinary staples. There are also many tasty dishes made with fish and seafood, some of them using a specific oil from Brazil: dendé oil (a and coconut milk, very popular in the Brazilian Northeast and North.

The Brazilian south is famous for the “churrasco”, big pieces of meat in a stick that is barbecued slowly in rock salt and served in slices. They are actually a fancier “all you can eat” syle of eatery. It has been amusing for me to see how many “churrascarias” have popped up in every corner in America, many from famous Brazilian chains such as “Fogo de Chao”, “Chima”, “Plataforma” and “Porcão”. They are not cheap (around 50 dollars per person) and are always crowded with Americans who want to eat until they pass out.

Your blogger’s hint: when you go to a churrascaria, avoid filling up with all the carbs or the salad bar. Leave space for the main treat: the picanha (PEE-KUN-YA).  The picanha is a Brazilian cut of top sirloin, and will be the juiciest and most tender meat you will eat.  The servers will certainly try to bring the cheaper meats around first, so avoid the sausages and chicken and ask for Picanha, medium well, sliced thin. It’s heaven.

Sweets in Brazil are very sweet. Incredibly sweet. When I moved to the USA I found some deserts not sweet enough, but now if I try any Brazilian sweet I find it hard to eat too much of it (and I have a very sweet tooth!). Brazilian food is also more fresh, less processed and for some reason, tastier than their American counterpart. Cold cuts and breads are infinitely better. I recently read that Brazilian dishes from the Northern part of the country are becoming a hit amongst the world of haute cuisine (many different fishes, spices and roots).

As usual though, times have changed in Brazil and I am sure the American influence is still working its magic. Aside from copying TV shows such as “Survivor”, “The Apprentice” and “Dancing with the stars”, Brazilians may also be copying the unhealthful eating habits of many Americans, which can be seen in the growing number of overweight people.

I am wondering if all the McDonalds in Brazil offer ham and sausage sandwiches for breakfast. That is something that may have changed during all the years I have lived in the U.S.


July 21, 2010 - Posted by | Difference between cultures, Lifestyle


  1. I lost a ton of weight after I moved to Brazil five years ago, I’m convinced the food here is healthier than American food because it’s not so industrially farmed and there isn’t the use of corn based composites in the food. Beef is grass fed not corn fed, and the produce comes from farms that are not very far away. The thing that’s changed the most about me, and puts off my American friends to Brazilian cuisine is the heavy use of salt. I love salt now, I mean I really crave it. When I’m cooking I use about 3 times the amount of salt that I used to use and sometimes it’s still not enough. The biggest surprise is that there is no black pepper at a Brazilian table. I guess this is true of South America as I noticed the same thing in Argentina. I never considered parsely anything more than a plate ornament but now it’s something I regularly cook with. I also crave sugar more than I once did, you’re right all of the sweets are much sweeter here. I love feijoada I mean I really love it, I’m one of the few gringoes that actually eats it every saturday, and the thing that makes feijoada good is the couve and the oranges. Moqueca is also an amazing dish, it reminds me of a french bouillabaise. Churrasco gaucho is the best way to eat grilled meat, American barbecue doesn’t compare and I don’t understand why Americans slather their meats in ketchup. I’ve also become a big fan of food from Minas Gerais, there’s so much variety and all of it tastes fanstatic. The one area where i think American cuisine beats it’s Brazilian counterpart is the hot dog, actually let’s throw pizza in there too, I know all my Brazilian friends will disagree with me, but a Brazilian hot dog is a monstrosity of a creation and if I’m eating one it’s only because it’s 4 in the morning and there’s nothing else to get. Mmm I’m hungry now, off to the por kilo…

    Comment by Tim Case | July 22, 2010 | Reply

  2. Tim, you eat all that food and you say ou lost weight? Oh my, I envy you!

    Comment by Brasilmagic | July 22, 2010 | Reply

  3. Ok I am from Canada and the idea of Coca-Cola for breakfast still horrifies me.

    Comment by Trevor | July 30, 2010 | Reply

  4. What I found when I visited Brasil is I didn’t need to salt anything. I usually salt everything here. It’s a bad habit. Everything was salty to my taste there.

    The food was the absolute best! I cook Brazilian food for my wife here and need to rely on her, and other Brazilians’, feedback on whether it tastes correct. It was such a thrill to go and taste the real thing for myself.

    Great Post!

    Comment by Pete Dwyer | November 28, 2010 | Reply

  5. They live healthy because eat good food.

    Comment by Ary | May 21, 2011 | Reply

  6. It is the lack of additives and preservatives that make American food so bad and Brazilian food so good.

    Comment by Churrasco Equipment | August 1, 2012 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: